How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

~by Thomas Cahill

The concept behind the Hinges of History series, of which How the Irish Saved Civilization is the first volume, is commendable: to bring attention to important moments and players in often overlooked in Western history.

That being said, I was sorely disappointed in the first book. To begin with, the first quarter of the text doesn't even mention the Irish except for brief allusions. Instead, he focuses on Roman history and culture. When he finally does begin to address the issues of Ireland and its people, and in particular St. Patrick (who technically wasn't even Irish), very little is devoted to the supposed subject of the book.

I was astonished to discover, by reading the chapter notes, that large portions of the book are virtually invented and are not based on scholarly research. He diverges from commonly held theories, offers very little evidence to support his own, and shows very poor scholarship. For a book that is portrayed as historical fact, these are very serious issues that the reader might not be aware of since they are buried in the notes, which aren't even referenced to in the main text.

Certainly, he brings up interesting subjects that deserve more attention. Unfortunately, they had to be culled from what can be seen as a seriously flawed book.

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